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Re: L. cardinalis 'small form'

On Tue, 13 Nov 2001, Naomi Mizumoto wrote:
> I'm sure I've mentioned several times before that Lobelia cardinalis 'small 
> form' is my all-time favorite plant.

I love this plant, too.  It's very versatile.

> However, I've noticed that when a stem 
> reaches approximately 2.5" in height, it starts to change. As it continues 
> to grow, the stem gets thicker and thicker, and the leaves take on a 
> slightly different look, larger and sometimes "dimpled" and washed-out 
> along the veins and just not as aesthetically appealing. I realize that 
> this plant can be propagated in the same manner as any other stem plant, 
> but if I do this, the top cutting looks "weird," for lack of a better word. 
> At least if I buy them in their emersed form, they'll start off with their 
> pretty, delicate leaves after losing their purple ones. I find that they 
> look most lovely at about 2.5-3.0". After this, they quickly go downhill.

Naomi, is it possible that your 'small form' is really just the top
cutting from a regular lobelia cardinalis?  I have both the regular L.
cardinalis (purchased from LFS) and the dwarf form (a gift from Tom Barr).
The two are not very similar.  The behavior you describe sounds more like
a cutting of the regular form.

> I'm wondering if the only way to have the smaller, more delicate lobelias 
> is to grow them from seeds, or if maybe top cuttings eventually lose the 
> gargantuan leaves and sprout the little ones? Or maybe there's a way to 
> help induce a "side-shoot" to grow out of the stem? Seems like as long as 
> the plant is growing perfectly vertically, side shoots simply don't happen. 
> The store from which I get my lobelias doesn't always have them available, 
> and I will be very sad when all of mine grow past their prime. At least for 
> now, I can take comfort in their SLOW growth. Can anybody give me some 
> helpful hints? Thanks lots!

My regular L. cardinalis has a thick stem and textured, oval leaves.  The
base of the leaf blade make an acute angle where it meets the petiole.
Under high light the underside of a new leaf has a a little purple color.
The color fades as the leaf matures.  Roots emerge from the base of the
stem above the substrate.  If you cut the top off a plant then the base of
the plant will sprout new tops, but I've never seen the top of the plant
put out side shoots.

My plants grow leaves as much as 3 inches long, but smaller plants have
smaller leaves.

The dwarf form has a thin stem.  The leaves are rounded triangles, wide
near their base and with an obtuse angle where the leaf blade meets the
petiole.  Almost all of the length of the stem is covered by coarse roots
that lay tightly against the stem.  The roots aren't easily visible
without taking the plant out for close inspection.  The plant branches
from the bottom of a cut stem that is left rooted.  The top of the plant
will very often grow side shoots. That feature makes it easy to
propogate.  I've never seen the dwarf form develop the purple color.

The leaves on the dwarf form are rarely more than an inch long.

The central leaf vein is prominent in both plants, but in general the
veins on the regular form are more noticable than the veins on the dwarf
form. The light color of the veins varies only slightly under the
different fertilizing routines that I use.

These differences hold true across all sizes that I've let them grow to.  
I've grown the dwarf form up to about 6", and the regular form up to
about 10".  These features also remain constant over the range of lighting
that I grow them under, from 1.5 watts/gallon to 3 watts/gallon NO

Roger Miller